April 5, 2013

Maine panel endorses wait of one year to lobby

The legislation would affect lawmakers and top appointed officials. More financial disclosure is urged.

By NAOMI SCHALIT and JOHN CHRISTIE Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting

(Continued from page 1)

Russell amended her bill to require only a one-year waiting period for executive branch officials who want to become lobbyists. It, too, passed with a unanimous vote.

But approval wasn't in the cards for a bill requiring high-level executive branch officials to wait one year before accepting a job with "a business activity that is regulated by the state or quasi-state agency by which the former executive employee was employed."

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Adam Goode, D-Bangor, may have sunk the bill himself. Standing before the committee, he complimented the members for approving other aspects of the bill -- increased disclosure requirements -- that also appeared in bills considered earlier in the morning.

But then Goode spoke of his provision to make it unlawful for state officials to leave their jobs and immediately go to work for industries they regulated.

"I hate to put up a new issue when you've been doing such good work today," Goode said.

The committee promptly killed the bill.

That disturbed Ann Luther, advocacy chair of Maine's League of Women Voters.

"I think it's really too bad that the committee did not seriously consider a ban on post-executive branch employment in the private sector that was regulated by those employees when in government service. Many states do it, for good reason," said Luther.

"We have had an instance where this exact thing did happen, and it wasn't against the law," said Luther. That incident, she said, happened in 2007-08, when Maine's chief utilities regulator, Kurt Adams, negotiated for and ultimately accepted a job offer and "equity units," or shares, from a prominent wind power developer while still head of his agency -- and when the developer had business before the agency.

"What he did looked bad," said Luther. "It wasn't illegal and probably should have been. Maybe there was no influence, no trading of favors, but it certainly raised that specter. And the people who favor wind power, who believe in wind power and its future certainly had their cause damaged by the action he took."

But Russell said she didn't intend to kill the prohibition in Goode's bill, which she co-sponsored. Cain has sponsored one more ethics bill that has yet to be considered by the Legislature, said Russell.

"I thoroughly intend to see that be part of the next bill," said Russell. "It's certainly not dead in my book, I would never have voted down Rep. Goode's bill if I had thought that that idea was dead."

The bills now go to the Legislature, where bills with unanimous committee support usually are passed without debate. They would then go to the governor for his consideration.

 

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service based in Hallowell.

Email: mainecenter@gmail.com

Web: pinetreewatchdog.org

Disclosure: Ann Luther is a member of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting's board of directors.

 

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